Both the warring Shiv Sena factions – CM Eknath Shinde in alliance with the BJP, and the Uddhav Thackeray-led group – have claimed victory in the Maharashtra Gram Panchayat elections concluded on Tuesday.
The BJP claims that it has emerged as the single largest party in the rural body polls, winning 271 seats in the election, while the Eknath Shine-led Shiv Sena faction has won 41 seats. The ruling alliance has claimed victory on 299 seats out of 581 total sarpanch seats across the state of Maharashtra. It further claimed that the Nationalist Congress Party (NCP), the Congress, and the Uddhav Thackeray faction won 62, 37 and 12 seats, respectively.
Maharashtra BJP president Chandrashekhar Bawankule said that the people of the state have also approved of the Shinde-Fadnavis government. He claimed that more than 50 percent of the newly elected sarpanches have supported this alliance.
Meanwhile, the Maha Vikas Aghadi alliance claimed that the BJP won 144 seats, and the Shinde-led faction won 41. They claimed that the NCP won 126 seats, the Congress 62 and the Thackeray group 37.
Elections to 547 gram panchayats in 16 districts of Maharashtra were held on Sunday. Of these, more than 76 percent voter turnout was recorded. The counting of votes took place on Monday.
Speaking with news agency ANI, Maharashtra Chief Minister Eknath Shinde said that the new government’s victory has proved that the people of Maharashtra are supporting Shiv Sena (faction)-BJP alliance.
“It also clears that we’re not the Shinde faction only but we are the real Shiv Sena, and people have accepted our alliance where we have won more than 300 panchayats,” said Shinde after claiming victory.
It was the first litmus test for both the MVA and the Shinde-BJP alliance since 39 Shiv Sena MLAs revolted against Uddhav Thackeray under Shinde’s leadership, and joined hands with the BJP to form the new government in Maharashtra, in June.
Maharashtra Deputy CM Devendra Fadnavis also said that the Shinde-led faction is the real Shiv Sena that follows the legacy of its founder Balasaheb Thackeray.
However, both Sena factions will face a major challenge in the upcoming Andheri East bypoll, which is expected to be declared soon. It would be a big test for both Sena groups since the Thackery-led MVA government collapsed.
According to Hindustan Times, the Thackeray camp has announced Rutuja Latke as its candidate, while the BJP is expected to field former corporator Murji Patel.
Meanwhile, CM Shinde’s faction has got permission for a Dussehra rally at BKC ground in Mumbai, from the Mumbai Metropolitan Region Development Authority (MMRDA). Uddhav Thackeray will rally at Shivaji Maidan at the same time.
Last week, the Shinde-led Sena faction and the Thackeray group had claimed to hold their rallies at the iconic Shivaji Park. Earlier, the MMRDA, which falls under the Urban Development Department led by CM Shinde himself, had rejected Thackeray’s request to hold a Dussehra rally at a ground near BKC, citing that it has already been booked for another event.